School mask debate in Tennessee grows heated as local board requires masks in elementary schools

School mask debate in Tennessee grows heated as local board requires masks in elementary schools

Heated arguments spilled out into the parking lot Tuesday night after a school board in a suburban Tennessee county approved a temporary requirement for masks in elementary schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Board of Education in Williamson County, just south of Nashville, approved the mask requirement for elementary school students, staff and visitors inside all buildings and on buses beginning Thursday and ending September 21, according to information from the school district.

During the board’s special session, parents on both sides of the issue shared their opinions with the board.

One parent, who identified himself as Daniel Jordan, a former Marine, told the board, “Actions have consequences. If you vote for this, we will come for you, in a non-violent way. … In the past, you dealt with sheep, now prepare yourself to deal with lions.”

Jennifer King, a parent and pediatric intensive care physician, said, “As a pediatric ICU physician, we are seeing more younger previously healthy children admitted with respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome than we have in prior strains, as cases in children are on the rise. This trend will only worsen if we don’t act now.”

During the meeting, the crowd cheered, clapped and booed, and people holding signs were at one point asked to clear the room.

Video obtained by CNN from outside the meeting also showed crowds heckling masked individuals leaving the meeting, with one man saying, “We know who you are. You can leave freely, but we will find you.” A Williamson County Sheriff’s Office sergeant could be seen imploring the crowd to be peaceful.

The board released a statement on the matter, saying, “Our parents are passionate about their children’s education, and that’s one of the reasons for our district’s success over the years. With that said, there’s no excuse for incivility.

“We serve more than 40,000 students and employ more than 5,000 staff members. Our families and staff represent a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, and it is important in our district that all families and staff have the opportunity to be represented and respected. We will continue to work toward making sure all voices are heard and that all families, staff and community members feel safe sharing their opinions,” the district added.

The temporary mask mandate will allow teachers who are at least six feet from students to remove their masks, the district said. The measure applies specifically to elementary schools, and masks are strongly encouraged for middle and high school students.

In late July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that localities encourage all teachers, staff, students, and visitors in schools to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, because of the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

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